With awards season (can the six months between the September festival releases and Oscar night be called a season?) officially drawing to a close last night, it’s time for me to refocus on the only New Year’s resolution that I’m taking seriously (though I have reduced the amount of time I spend reading comments on the Internet): my goal of watching 365 films in 2014. Spurred on my my lovely friend Janessa’s successful completion of the film-a-day challenge in 2013, I have decided to put my currently abundant amounts of free time to good use and commit it to excessive movie watching. Currently, I stand slightly ahead of the game, having seen 64 films so far this year. While the pace initially may come off as intimidating, I have developed a loose strategy to meet these goals, while also committing to my dedication to refrain from illegally accessing film (something I will discuss in my next post).
1. Embrace short films
People may call me out on this one, but honestly I don’t care for a couple of reasons. First, this is my challenge, and I can count whatever I want. I call this the “you’re not my real mom” clause. Second, and more importantly, short films are films! It may seem like a way of weaselling my way out spending my time watching features, but I truly enjoy a good short film programme. As I’m lucky enough to live in downtown Toronto, short film festivals and programmes abound (One of my personal favourites to attend Shorts that are not Pants returns in April with the help of the lovely Titania Plant.), as do opportunities to see programmes dedicated to the Academy Award nominees for the best live action, animated, and documentary shorts. Aside from the privilege that my geographic location grants me, I have yet to hear a solid argument as to why short films should be excluded beyond “they’re not long enough.” The labour and dedication of the short filmmakers should not be written off for not adding an unnecessary 40 minutes to their film. Instead, we should be celebrating the achievement of making a fully formed, succinct, and coherent piece of art. Many of the short films I have seen this year have elicited a greater response from me, be it emotional, intellectual, animalistic, or otherwise. While Helium took home the best live action short prize last night, my favourite of the nominees would have to be Avant que de tout perdre by Xavier Legrand, which for the entirety of its 29 minute runtime, had me completely captivated by its impeccably rendered suspense, careful story reveal, and exceptional editing and camera work.
Furthermore, many filmmakers begin their careers making short films and music videos (which I have not included in my count, but I am certainly open to anyone who can make a case for them). Aside from the cultural capital you may gain from being able to smugly announce that you knew about a particular director/screenwriter/cinematographer/editor before they broke into the still more prestigious feature films, watching a career and a style evolve is exciting! And with support to short films, these filmmakers are more likely to be able to make that jump should they choose to.
2. Exploit SVOD
As a part of the “cable cutting” generation, I do not have a cable subscription and instead spend media money on subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix and Fandor. With the sheer number of options available and a functioning “to watch” or “my list” option, I could probably achieve this goal using these services alone. As a Canadian subscriber without the technical know-how (or, more realistically, the balls) to sneak onto the American version of these services, the options can be somewhat limiting, especially in regards to newer output. That being said, this limitation is forcing me to watch older films, that I might otherwise disregard. A recent viewing of John Frankenheimer’s Reindeer Games (2000) ended up being a pleasant surprise, but really only for the campy action scenes. This brings me to my final strategy:
3. Just watch it already
As a film student, my list of films to see is long and unruly. Spanning genres, decades, languages, and film modes. In previous years I was satisfied (though not truly happy) to continue to add to that list, but no more! This is the year I stop my cinematic procrastination. This is the year I stop “meaning to see” films and finally see them. No longer will I be embarrassed to admit that I have yet to see a Kurosawa film. No longer will I live my life without (what I’m told is) the enriching experience of viewing the Czech New Wave. This is the year I finally sit down and watch feminist touchstones like Jeanne Deilman and Working Girls, work through the rest of Guy Maddin’s feature oeuvre, and actually watch all of the DVDs I own (many beautiful Criterions courtesy of the many lovely people in my life).
No more excuses. It’s time to watch. Even though I might have to trudge to Bay Street Video in this lousy Smarch weather.